The M?ammar conundrum

September 7th, 2011 by Jack

Remember yesterday’s Factiva search when I used only the Libyan leader’s first name because there are so many different spellings of his surname?  I said using the “atleast” command to narrow the results of that search would be difficult, but for that specific search in just two sources (Reuters and WSJ), I now realize I could have used it without much trouble.  After I got my initial set of results, I could have scanned the stories to see what surname spellings those sources use, and assuming they spell the same way all the time, gone back and plugged them into an “atleast” command, such as atleast6 (gaddafi or gadhafi).  Or in this case, since the two sources use similar spellings, atleast6 (gad?afi).  The ? wild card character should work here because it represents the fourth character in the word.  Our problem yesterday with m?ammar was that Factiva didn’t accept the wild card as one of the first three characters in a word.

But again, this is only because I was searching a limited number of sources.  Had I been searching all sources, which would have many more different spellings of the surname, using the “atleast” command becomes tougher.

That’s not to say you couldn’t take a swing at it though.  For example, something like atleast6 (gad* or qad* or khad*) might catch most of the surname iterations.  (Remember that * is the truncation character in Factiva, as opposed to the wild card character in Nexis.)

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